While this issue refers to the Australian situation, any reader from elsewhere should read the original article in order to understand what the issue really is, as one day it will come to you. The Greens are international.
For some time there has been a campaign running in the rural press purportedly aiming at establishing standards for ‘sustainable’ production in the grazing industry, especially in North Queensland. In NQ, the Great Barrier Reef tends to be the theme with ‘responsible graziers’ being called on to cooperate in producing ‘sustainably’ in order to protect it. The World Wildlife Fund is behind it.
Rural producers have over a long period been improving their environmental performance due simply to the fact that allowing deterioration of their prime asset, their land is not in their own self-interest and will reduce their income. Despite this they have been beaten around the heads constantly and a number of correspondents express the need ‘to be seen to be doing the right thing’.
Producers who want to do ‘the right thing’ can easily do so; there is no need to hug the WWF vipers to their bosoms inn order to be seen to do it. David Leyonhjelm, an agribusiness consultant has weighed in on the subject:
Some in the cattle industry, including the Cattle Council, have apparently fallen for the good cop – bad cop con used by environmental lobby groups to manipulate industries.
In May this year the Australian Roundtable for Sustainable Beef was introduced to the beef industry as the local version of a scheme commenced in 2010 in the US with the aim “to advance sustainable production of beef”. Among its members is the environmental group WWF.
The scheme has been described by Senator Ron Boswell as an extortion racket, who warned cattle producers to be wary. A 2011 report by the Institute of Public Affairs (IPA) entitled “Naked extortion? Environmental NGOs imposing [in]voluntary regulations on consumers and business” shows there is good reason for the warning.
The racket typically begins with some fairly extreme criticisms of industry practices, based on unrepresentative examples and misleading or manipulated information. The industry is accused of harming the planet, destroying the future of our children and being bad corporate citizens. There are threats of a campaign to expose the industry, focusing on its brand and image or those of its major customers.
The industry knows it’s mostly nonsense but also that it’s difficult to explain to consumers. Industry representatives therefore engage in “dialogue” with a moderate lobby group (eg WWF), which appears to have reasonable expectations and sympathy for the industry. Perhaps a voluntary code of practice could be developed; it is suggested, to preserve its “social licence”. We’ll describe it as industry best practice and establish a certification scheme so everyone can prove how responsible they are.
In the background lurks the bad cop (often Greenpeace, although various others can fill the role), making threatening noises about negative publicity, boycotts and disruptive direct action. Don’t worry about them, the good cop says. Stick with us and we’ll keep you safe.
A code of practice is developed which some are not happy about. Suck it up, their representatives tell them. It’s better than having the bad cop hounding us. Get certified and all will be well. Oh and by the way, there is a fee for certification. Here’s the invoice.
Over time the code is revised as new issues are introduced and standards raised. What about your use of nanotechnology? How about gender equality? Your unacceptable carbon footprint? And by the way, sustainability means what we say, not you.Miraculously, some issues melt away when a higher fee for certification is agreed to. Money also finds its way into the bad cop’s coffers, well out of public sight. …
When in the clutches of green groups it becomes apparent that any ideas of sustainability of environmental consciousness are only valid if they are being handed down from the green higher authority. Any attempt at reasonable compromise with these people will only be accepted on total accession to their terms.